# 3,2,1,Fun! That’s Right, Numbers are Fun!

When we think of literacy, our minds go directly to reading and words. But literacy is more than words, it is the combination of many everyday skills that you may use without even thinking about or categorizing as literacy.

Numeracy is one such skill, and includes number sense, predictability, calendars, patterns and relationships, measurement, time, puzzles, problem solving, and shapes.

Using numeracy skills and teaching them to your children might be easier than you think. Numbers are everywhere! If you are baking, you can ask your child to help measure, and as they get older they can help double or halve the recipe. Making cookies, you can talk about the shapes, or place them in patterns on the cookie sheet before baking; circle, square, triangle… circle, square, triangle.

Using patterns and shapes to decorate Easter eggs is another great way to talk about colours and patterns. You can also count the eggs, making sure there are enough for the whole family, and that everyone gets the same amount. You can divide other Easter candies or jelly beans according to their colour, and make a pattern or even a jelly bean rainbow.

We all learn differently. Some learn best by reading, some through watching, and some through doing. Children are still finding their best learning style and therefore learn best by doing all three. Keeping this in mind, how might you adapt playing or chores into learning moments?

When possible, try to be aware of the language you are using, or not using, during play and chores. Think of yourself as the narrator; while narrating you are teaching your children language, self-expression, and building on their vocabulary.

Some good numeracy words to use throughout play and learning are:

• ciircle, square, triangle
• round, flat, curved, straight, corners
• same, different, opposite
• sorting
• more, less
• short, long, bigger, smaller

• What comes next?
• Which are the same? Why?
• Which is different? Why?
• Where would this go? Why?

While narrating you could also try to include a singing narrative. Singing and music help develop children’s brains and make stronger brain connections, leading to children who develop stronger literacy skills in life.

At the Centre for Family Literacy’s free 3,2,1,Fun! program, you will enjoy learning activities, tools, and tips to support your children in their early literacy development, which leads to success in school and lifelong learning.

If you are unable to access one of our programs, you can download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play and the App Store. The app gives you over 100 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.

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# Not Enough Time to Really Connect with Your Preschooler?

Have you ever wondered where to find the time to really connect with your preschooler? It is important to foster healthy relationships to help them grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually. It is important for a child to grow up feeling connected to an adult caregiver.

It isn’t necessary to spend large amounts of money on gadgets, toys, and fads that claim to give your child educational gains. It isn’t necessary for your child to be enrolled in every sport and activity that you can get to in a day. It is necessary to take a few moments out of your day, every day, to be intentional with your child. This practice is highly beneficial—not only to your relationship, but also to your child’s learning.

Be present. Spend time with them. Connect!

I recently read that the average parent spends only 49 minutes a day with their child. 49 minutes. I thought, “no, that can’t be possible, that has to be wrong.” Reading further, I found that the 49 minutes does not include the time it takes to care for the child, to feed, bathe, and drive them to lessons or practices. That number has to be much higher if you include the time spent caring for your child.

So 49 minutes a day is the average amount of time parents feel they can set aside in a day to intentionally be with their child—whether it be reading a book for fun, walking or playing outside, building blanket forts, making crafts, or exploring activities together. Less than an hour out of the day for the purpose of fun and togetherness.

When there isn’t enough spare time to play at length, there are still daily chores and tasks that need to be done, and many of those are caring for your child. In our family literacy programs, our goals are reached when parents learn tools and tricks to turn those daily routines into fun learning experiences that can increase the quality time parents spend with their child.

At Learn Together – Grow Together, we share ideas that parents can use to include their child—books, activities, songs, games, routines, and more—all with the goal of the parents being their child’s first teacher. All with the goal of strengthening bonds, and securing confident growth for the child.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, you can learn about your child’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. No program near you? You can still add some tips, tricks, and knowledge to your parenting tool kit by checking out Flit, our free App on Google Play and the App Store. You’ll find over 100 fun family literacy activities to do with your child!

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# WHAT IS LITERACY?

Literacy is the foundation for all learning. An individual’s literacy level impacts their success in reading, writing, understanding, speaking, and listening. This impact extends to all areas of their life, including home, work, and community.

Family Literacy is the way parents, children, and extended family members use literacy at home, work and in the community. Family literacy is foundational to the overall wellness of an individual and their family.

Today, 45% of Albertans struggle with literacy.

Imagine the challenges that an individual will face on a daily basis—job applications, safety manuals, menus, prescriptions, instructions, signs, maps, etc.

Imagine the cost to society—to education, healthcare, social services, the criminal system, employers, the economy, you.

# WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD INVEST IN LITERACY

A Statistics Canada survey found that lifting literacy scores by 1% could lift labour productivity by 2.5% and raise output per capita by 1.5%.

Companies who invest in family literacy workshops as part of their commitment to employee wellness are innovative and forward thinking. These companies are also smart investors because the increase of employee wellness in the workplace reduces costs and increases employee productivity.

Research shows that workplace programs that aim to do more than increase job-specific skills, that use functional materials from not only the workplace but also from home and community, are more effective than programs with a narrower scope. Family literacy activities and materials can enhance the effectiveness of workplace training.

Family Literacy helps to produce young adults, who are just entering the workforce, with the ability to read directions carefully and thereby reduce waste in the form of accidents and mistakes.

—Plant supervisor, Lucerne Foods

# EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

• Attract new employees
• Better employee and client retention
• Build diversity in skills and personnel
• Improve employee morale and corporate culture
• Reduce sickness and absenteeism
• Enhance working relationships between colleagues and improved labour relations
• Increase output, quality of work, and overall profitability
• Improve health and safety records

# EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

• Earn more income
• Employees feel supported and valued
• Increase job satisfaction
• Fewer occupational injuries
• Have greater opportunities for job mobility
• More likely to participate in further training
• Greater economic security
• Increase confidence and self-esteem
• Increase social awareness and self-advocacy
• Better able to support their children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development

Each dollar invested in a family literacy workshop goes twice as far, supporting early childhood development as well as adult basic and continued education.

This investment supports a family’s intergenerational cycle of achievement.

# HOW THE CENTRE FOR FAMILY LITERACY CAN HELP

Employees with children often struggle to achieve a work/life balance. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things we need to do and even less time to do the things we want to do. There is no doubt that parents feel guilty when they have reduced time to spend with their children and as a family. This “unbalance” can result in low performance at work and increased stress at home.

Our workshops support families to make the most of the time they have together. Each workshop identifies naturally occurring opportunities, already present in their routine, to support both the adult’s and children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development. We give participants the tools to recognize these opportunities and build on them, without adding any more to their day.

All of our workshops are hands-on and interactive. Participants work together and draw from their own life experiences as they work through challenges and explore activities, with the information and materials we bring. Participants will leave our workshops with the tools to support their children’s learning and development, and make the most of their time together as a family. Let’s bring back the balance!

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# Numbers, Numbers Everywhere!

What is numeracy?

The simple definition is, the ability to understand and work with numbers. Alberta Education defines numeracy as the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with quantitative and spatial information to make informed decisions in all aspects of daily living.

Are numeracy and mathematics the same?

No. They are relatable but definitely not the same. Numeracy covers more of the daily life skills learned from a young age and fine tuned with experience and knowledge. Numeracy includes concepts that help a person with their mathematical understanding.

Mathematical concepts learned in public school are the basis for further technology and specialized fields of study achieved in postsecondary education.

What does numeracy look like to a preschooler?

In a quick summarization, numeracy learning looks like play. When children are playing they are learning about patterns, colours, sizes, measurements, gravity, temperature, days of the week, estimation, prediction, and so much more.

How can adults support numeracy learning?

Adults support their children’s learning by providing a safe and welcoming space in their home for children to explore numeracy. By spending time with their children, encouraging and offering what they can from their own knowledge and experience, their children will benefit by being confident learners and willing to challenge what they know to further their learning.

3,2,1,FUN! is a family numeracy program that adults attend with their children to have fun exploring numeracy concepts together through play. At the program, adults learn strategies to support their children’s numeracy development at home, in their day to day lives. Parents can support this learning through activities, book sharing, storytelling, songs, games, and more, without the use of expensive toys and gadgets. Parents discover how to lead their children’s learning with a deeper understanding of how numeracy concepts are learned—concepts such as patterning and sorting, following recipes or instructions, exploring shapes, sizes and colours, measurements and spatial awareness.

So the next time you play with your children, try talking about what they are doing, even if you are just playing alongside them. Remember it is the little things you do daily that help reinforce what your children learn.

You can:

• ask them how many stairs they are going up or down as you walk beside them
• ask them about the colours they see as you go for a walk or a drive
• ask them what they think goes next if they are stacking toys or building blocks
• ask them to help in the kitchen if you are preparing a simple meal or snack
• count how many steps it will take to walk to their room, the front door, or the bus stop
• ask them to predict what bath toys will sink or float before the toys are added to the water
• talk about how many minutes until the next activity, or how many days until grandma visits
• enlist your children’s help with sorting laundry, by size, by colour, or by which family member the item belongs to

Share your ideas for developing numeracy skills with your children in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog!

And, if you want to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

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# A Book: What’s in it for Baby and You?

When I started working for the Centre for Family Literacy, I worked with one program that served families with children 0 – 6 years old and another that served families with children 3-5 years old, and storytelling was a go-to activity for capturing the attention of preschool children and keeping them engaged. I loved it, and for years I wouldn’t read any book silently to myself because it was so much more fun to read them aloud.

And then I took on the Books for Babies program, and all my storytelling skills fell flat. Not entirely flat, but the stories written in books were obviously not written for babies. Babies have a much shorter attention span, a limited experience of the world, and only the beginnings of an understanding of what a story is.

So, when we talk about sharing books with babies, reading the words in the books is pretty far down the list of what we are going to do with the books when we share them. We want to help babies understand how books work, what they can do with them, and how the books relate to their world in a way that they can understand.

We will need to get creative, and we will need to experiment to find out what your babies respond to now. I’ll get us started with some ideas, but please add your own in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog.

Remember:

• You’re probably not trying to teach your babies to read, but you are helping them to build a relationship with books.
• The following are prompts for you. Your babies might be able to do some of the things in these lists, but we’ll start by trying to capture their interest.
• Try only a couple of ideas at a time. You are testing for their reaction, but you already know their patience is limited for trying new things.

Books as pictures

1. What is this a picture of?
2. What sound does it make?
3. What colour is it?
4. What shape is it?
5. What would it feel like?
6. What would it taste like?
7. Do we have one of those?
8. How does it make you feel?
9. Where did you last see one of those? Could you go see one of those?
10. What does that remind you of?
11. What does it look like upside-down?
12. That person/animal/robot looks just like/nothing like you.

Books as objects

1. Pile them up.
2. Line them up.
3. Knock them down.
4. Open and close them.
5. Turn the pages back and forth.
6. Shake them.
7. Spin them.
8. Slide them around.

Books as prompts

1. Does it remind you of a song or rhyme?
2. Does it remind you of another story?
3. Does it remind you of your father/grandmother/guinea pig/etc.?
4. Is there an idea for something to eat?
5. Is there an idea for something to do?
6. Can you pretend to do/be that?
7. Act out this story together, with puppets and toys, or on our own.

When there’s a face

1. Peek-a-boo!
2. Make that same face/expression.
3. Make up a name and backstory for this character.

If you would like more information about books and babies, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for tip sheets, a link to Flit the fun family literacy app, and program information for Edmonton.

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# Digging a Groove Your Child Can Grow In

Singing is a great tool for developing language and literacy skills in your children. Making a ritual of singing during daily routines also adds fun to tasks that children may not always see as fun (diaper changing/going potty, putting on their shoes or coat, etc.) and it strengthens the connection between you and your children. How many of us sing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share” when helping our littles put away their toys? (I bet that song is now stuck in your head!)

Routines are practices in place to help children prepare for regular happenings. For example, the morning routine is to have breakfast, get dressed, and brush teeth and hair; the sleep routine is to have a bath, brush teeth, read a story, and off to bed. This repetition allows children to develop a predictable schedule—to know what to expect each day.

Rituals aid in learning and reinforcing new skills. The purpose is connection with your children, strengthening your relationship through small practices—a goodnight song, or asking “what was your favourite part of the day,” for example.

I imagine most of us share a ritual from our own childhood with our children—a cherished memory of the connection we had with our parents, and which built the foundation for the relationships we now have—to become part of our daily routine and enrich our journey with our own families.

A nightly ritual I have included in our bedtime routine is a goodnight song. I have sung it to my daughter since she was an infant, and she now looks forward to this special part of our day. I made up the song by changing the words to “Hey Jude” by John Lennon, and it goes something like this:

Hey you, it’s time for bed
Go to sleep now, ‘cuz you’re so tired
Remember, to kiss your mama goodnight
And have sweet dreams
To wake up happy (happy, happy, happy)

Hey you, just say good night
Sleep will come soon, just close your eyes
Remember to hug your mama real tight
And that I love you
You are amazing

So, try adding a little song to your routines and see what happens! There are all kinds of songs and rhymes for children on YouTube, or you can make up your own. Comment by sharing the rituals that are a part of your family!

C.O.W. bus staff are excited and ready to sing, play, and share books with all the families who visit the bus when it’s in their neighbourhood! Check our website for locations and schedules for the C.O.W. bus and other exciting programs offered by the Centre for Family Literacy!

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# Conversations with Babies

There are behaviours that babies are born with, like reflexes and how they are naturally drawn toward faces, but if you want your baby to grow up into someone who can tell you things and understand the things you tell them, then you need to talk with them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you chat with your baby:

• Babies aren’t very talkative to start, but they are excellent listeners
• Share your thoughts with your baby, talk about the things you are doing, or tell stories
• Even before their first words, leave room for them to respond, and reply to their babbles and coos to help them learn about the pattern of conversation
• Speak and sing to your babies in however many languages you speak. Babies are super good at picking up additional languages if they are learning them from the people in their lives
• Babies don’t always want to talk. If they look like they’ve had enough, give them a break
• On the other hand, don’t ignore your baby when they’re trying to talk to you. When you respond, you are letting them know they’re on the right track for developing speech
• Maintain eye contact and use facial expressions
• Babies are using cues from your lips and mouth to learn about the sounds coming out of your face. They are simultaneusly learning to lip read!
• Use expression in your voice, as much as your baby loves you and your voice, there is still such a thing as too boring

An extra note about that last point. You’ve probably noticed that people sound different when they talk to babies. They’ll use a high energy sing-song voice that usually makes babies smile. There are studies that show this helps babies to recognize the differences between different speech sounds, which is pretty cool. You might try to tone it down, but there’s evidence that we all do it on some level.

On another level, it’s one of the many ways that you can show your baby that you are engaging with them personally. You are reinforcing that back and forth communication with your baby is foundational for language development and brain development in general.

What works best for you? Does your baby particularly like entries from your old high school diary, or your celebrity impressions? Let us know in the comments!

You might also be interested in a Books for Babies program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton. Here’s a link to the webpage.

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# What is Emergent Literacy?

Emergent Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Strong early literacy skills are naturally the foundation for reading and writing later on. Children begin learning at birth—many agree even before birth—and continue learning long after school begins.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Emergent literacy skills are developed with experiences children have alongside an adult in their life guiding the way. Young children enjoy repeating favourite activities (for example reading, singing, and craft activities) with the ones they love. An adult such as a parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver, that provides one-on-one experiences, can do more “teaching” than can be done in a group setting.

Children prepare for reading long before they can actually read or start school. Learning opportunities are best when they happen naturally in the everyday activities you do at home and in the community, including grocery shopping, doing chores, playing games, or travelling somewhere by car or bus. Letters and numbers are not only in books, they are everywhere!

Talk with them and explain things that you see and do. Before children can learn to read they must understand language. Sing and rhyme. (See below for tips for supporting emergent literacy.)

People tend to call children between the ages of 3 – 4 years preschoolers, although you have had them busy learning preschool lessons their whole lives up until now. Most preschoolers will be displaying their emergent literacy development by:

• Enjoying stories read to them that they can retell afterwards
• Beginning to understand that print carries a message to be decoded
• Attempting to read aloud while looking at a book
• Attempting to write or print on paper with a pencil or crayon
• Participating in singing and rhyming
• Identifying familiar print on signs to favourite stores or brand names
• Identifying letters in their name, or family member’s names, and some sounds of those letters

By age 5, most children are beginning kindergarten and are becoming experts at:

• Sounding like they are reading aloud while they look through a favourite book
• Using descriptive language to explain or answer questions
• Recognizing letter and sound matches
• Understanding that print is read left to right and starts at the top of the page
• Beginning to group letters and letter sounds together to form words
• Beginning to match spoken words with written ones
• Beginning to write stories with recognizable words

Tips for supporting emergent literacy in your family:

• Attend community programs with your child such as the ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy
• Make book choices based on your child’s interests
• Encourage your child to make predictions as the story is being shared with them, take time to pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how a character feels etc.
• Visit the library regularly
• Give your child different materials that encourage drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, and gluing. Learning can be messy work, but worth it!
• Have fun with your child, play, and pretend! Let them lead the way in their play. They are used to following your rules every day, give them the key to imagination and follow them as they lead the way to creativity

Download Flit, our free literacy App, for fun activities you can do with your children at home to help develop emergent literacy! You’ll find the links on our website, or go directly to the App Store or Google Play.

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program in Edmonton by the Centre for Family Literacy for parents and their children ages 3 – 6 years. Families meet once a week for 3 ten-week sessions to learn about their children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. The sessions offer some adult only instruction and lots of parent-child together time for fun learning activities. Spaces are still available so register quickly. For more information visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, call 780-421-7323, or email info@famlit.ca

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# Autumn Provides Easy Literacy Lessons to Share with Your Kids

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
Autumn leaves are falling down, red, yellow, orange and brown!

Rake them up and pile them high, pile them high, pile them high,
Rake them up and pile them high, till they reach the sky!

Just reading these simple words paints a vivid picture in my mind: being sent out to clean up the yard before the holiday guests arrived for dinner. They bring back childhood memories of working so hard to rake up leaves into giant mounds that called to me to drop my rake and jump in! I can almost smell the slightly sweet odour of decay and hear the crunch of the brittle brown leaves as I scattered all my hard work.

So many opportunities for building literacy skills can be found in the simple act of cleaning up the yard. You and your child can talk about:

• all the different colours and shapes of leaves you find
• how the wind sounds as it blows through the leaves still clinging to the branches
• why some plants lose their leaves while others stay green year-round
• the different textures of the leaves—some brittle, some pokey, some soft and flexible
• how many empty bags will be needed
• what happens when it gets cold—where do the bugs go
• why do the days seem shorter and so much more!

Literacy is about so much more than just reading a book or writing a letter. It encompasses learning vocabulary and how to put the words together to get an idea across, problem solving on your own or working together to find a solution, learning the meaning of our numbers—the one to one correspondence of word, numeral and object.

Autumn also means Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and literacy is embedded in the preparation and sharing of the meal. Talk with your children about:

• recipes that have been tweaked just that much to make them unique to your family
• how many more chairs will be needed so everyone has a seat
• what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why do we celebrate it in the fall
• the difference between a yam and a sweet potato
• family traditions that have been passed down over the ages
• how many pieces that pumpkin pie has to be cut into!

In our Literacy Links workshops, we focus on how you can find literacy in just about everything you do. We help adults, parents, and caregivers discover the many simple activities they can do at home and out in the community that support and build numeracy and literacy skills. As for me, I am going to go back to painting some pictures!

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night,
He has three teeth, but he doesn’t bite,
He has two eyes, but he doesn’t see,
He’s a happy jack-o-lantern, as you can see!

Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information about Literacy Links workshops. If you are interested in either hosting or attending a workshop, please call the Centre, 780.421.7323

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# What does Reading a Book Together have to do with Numeracy Skills?

Have you ever read a book to a child and counted objects on the pages, looked for shapes, found different colours, or noticed patterns in the storytelling? Believe it or not, you are introducing numeracy skills.

Stories are a powerful way to explore numeracy concepts. They:

• Provide simple and easy ways for children to relate the pictures and words to their lives
• Encourage the use of numeracy language by using phrases like: How many? How far? How much?
• Develop concepts like following directions, following recipes
• Offer opportunities to problem solve, count backwards or forwards or by 2’s, introduce basic math skills
• Increase memory skills by retelling stories in the correct order. Beginning, middle, and end can be recalled without the book in front of you

TIPS!

• Read together often, when you can spend the time relaxed and not rushed
• You do not need a hundred different books, a variety of books is best
• You do not have to find math books for numeracy. Books rich in colour, shapes, and numbers are appealing to children and there are so many available
• Find books that have a clear beginning, middle, and end (sometimes they start with Once upon a time)
• Look for books that have a repeating sequence of events
• Use recipe books, craft books, Lego building books (following instruction and direction step by step)
• It is okay and expected for children to want to read the same book over and over again for weeks before they are ready to move on to another. As they become more familiar with the story, they are also understanding it better each time. The predictability is important for young children to want to follow along
• Take time to revisit old favourites
• When reading, talk together. Pause the story to ask questions, and give your child  time to answer. Ask questions like, “what do you think happens next?” “Can you count all of the red spots?” “Do you spot the dog?” “How many girls are wearing yellow dresses?”
• Give children a chance to explain what they think and see
• Look for opportunities to talk about routines like nap time, dinner time, bath time, bed time, days of the week and/or months, and seasons

We enjoy exploring numeracy with families at our 3,2,1,FUN! numeracy program. Some   books we like to share are:

• If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff
• The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
• Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
• Looking For A Moose by Phyllis Root
• The Napping House by Audrey Wood
• Memoirs Of A Goldfish by Devin Scillian
• How To Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! drop-in program in Edmonton.

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